It was a momentous occasion in Oldham on Friday, Aug. 7. The community celebrated JoAnn Nelson’s retirement from the Oldham library after 44 years of service. Members of the library board provided lunch for everyone who came. There were smiles on their faces and lots of reminiscing that filled the library. Nelson is passionate, hardworking and loyal to the community that she obviously cares so much about.
She married Herb Nelson in 1957. Nelson has two sons, Tom and Jeff, and one daughter, Muriel Bickett. A son, Larry, has passed away, along with her husband. Nelson was an English teacher in Oldham. Along with teaching English, she also ran the school paper, directed school plays and served as high school librarian after taking six hours of library credit at Sioux Falls College.
“Getting paid isn’t the most important thing, because in a small school, you do a lot of jobs,” said Nelson.
She also worked at the cafe after her husband passed.
“You need to keep working and keep moving,” she laughed and added, “I didn’t mean to preach.”
In 1976, Francis Malone sold the building that houses the library to the library board for $1. This building had been utilized in past years as a bank and an upstairs apartment. The Masonic Temple also was upstairs, and they even held dances. Nelson said some people just stop by and ask if they can tour the old building.
Nelson was very instrumental in getting the library up and going. In the old bank vault, you will find the original “Oldham Caller” papers, along with the Lake Preston Times. When the Oldham Caller was no more, they were able to have a space in the Lake Preston paper.
“I even have the last edition of that,” stated Nelson.
She adamantly shared that this was a very independent library run by donations and the rent from the post office. A very vital part of the community, the library would be open on Saturday nights along with other businesses. Her biggest time was Friday morning when the preschool had a summer reading program.
During the summer, youth would help in the library dusting shelves and completing other tasks. Nelson said that her biggest adjustment was dealing with small children and adults because she wasn’t used to it. She obviously caught on quickly, because she knew what her patrons of the library enjoyed reading, and she would make sure to get the books in for each one of them. As ladies were there on Friday to show their respect for her devotion, she was still sharing book information with them!
After moving off the farm north of Oldham and relocating to Madison, Nelson donated her time two days a week at the library.
“Now, I just come to Oldham to get my hair done,” she said with a big smile on her face. “I have so many memories and can’t even think right now. I know I’ll get home later and think of some more.”
The Oldham Library is open 1-3 p.m. A new program, “Story Brag,” encourages children to visit. Each time a child comes in to read a book, he or she receives a “brag toy.”